Some rules were meant to be broken. Not all rules; most laws are well-intentioned. Except for this one in my very own Commonwealth of Virginia. Do you know how hard it is to find 100 square inches of solid reflectorized material at shoulder level visible from 360 degrees while still looking like a total badass? Impossible.
But when someone of titular authority goes the extra mile to block me from experiencing the joys of life, I usually return the favor by going out of my way to break their barriers of red tape.
Enter, the 2012 Boston Marathon.
Unlike 99% of other races around the country, the Boston Marathon requires a Herculean effort to qualify with an absurd time. As a 25 year old man, you need a time of 3 hours and 10 minutes in another “sanctioned” marathon to grace the presence of this elite race. In other words, the approximate run time of the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Extended Edition. So Boston is the 1%. Viva la resistance.
With six marathons under my belt, my PR is still about 53 minutes shy of reaching the qualification time needed. Luckily, if I don’t slow off my PR for the next 35 years, I can qualify as a 60 year old with a time of 4:03:45. Or I could join the
Occupy Bandit movement.
Bandits have long been a tradition in the Boston Marathon. Runners who either failed to qualify or were too cheap to pay the entrance fee line up every year behind the starters and run the full 26.2 miles. You don’t get a medal; you’re time isn’t officially counted. But hey, a marathon is a marathon.
I ventured up to Boston for this year’s marathon to meet up with my friend Benbo and participate as a bandit in this year’s race. This is my story. Warning: What you’re about to read may be disturbing.
Sunday, April 15th 12:00:00 AM – Head to bed before a morning flight to Boston. Good to see Antonio Cromartie announced the birth of his 10th kid. Right in time for tax day to get that extra break. Well played. Side note: his latest child’s name is Jagger. Not to be outdone by Jagger’s brother Jurzie, presumably named after the state in which he plays football. Amazing.
3:45 AM – Wake up to the sounds of my roommate’s love-making. Nice.
7:00 AM – Early morning warmup run featuring Holy Ghost! – my new favorite band.
11:15 AM – United is the worst airline ever. No self-service check-in? You mean I actually have to converse with a person to get my boarding pass? What is this – 1965?
11:30 AM – Security at Dulles makes me feel like I’m being brought into some dystopian quarantine facility out of Children of Men.
11:45 AM – If I ever lose my job, I want to get trained to drive one of the trams at Dulles. Those things are awesome. Grab lunch at California Tortilla. Mistake #1 of the weekend.
2:00 PM – Land in Boston. Already sweating.
6:00 PM – Benbo puts together a legit baked ziti dinner. Carbloading initiated.
10:00 PM – Devils lose Game 2 to the Panthers. Nobody in the room can name the city the Panthers play in. Turns out it’s Sunshine, FL. An omen for tomorrow. Time to pass out.
Monday, April 16th – Race Day
7:30 AM – Wakey wakey eggs and bakey. 1 everything bagel, 2 bananas, eggs, pepperjack cheese, a gallon of water, and a 32 oz powerade – the breakfast of champions.
8:30 AM – Benbo’s mom picks us up and drives us to the starting line. Another thing about being a bandit runner – no access to runner transportation. When you bandit run, you have to Fleetwood-Mac it – go your own way. Luckily, Benbo’s mom offered to give us a scoop. So clutch. She’s my hero.
9:30 AM – Arrive at drop off area about a mile from the starting line. Other novice bandit runners are looking around like lost puppies that don’t want to get caught by the pound. We invite one to join our wolfpack and make the trek to Hopkinton.
10:15 AM – Begin to stretch it out and start pounding Gu. Look around and can’t find a single other bandit runner. We’re starting to get some darting looks.
10:45 AM – With the first two waves already out on the course and the Kenyans nearing the finish line already, we make our way to the starting corrals. The paid runner crowd is thinning and we’re now neck deep in bandits – mostly kids from local area colleges. Upon approaching the corral, we’re stopped by security and asked to stand behind a perimeter. It’s at this point that I meet a guy who’s been bandit running for 27 years. Totally legit. He tells me that the news announced that 5,000 paid runners deferred to next year’s race because of the heat. The high for the day is projected to be 87 degrees, but it doesn’t deter us. Probably mistake #2.
10:50 AM – Estimated bandit number is up to about 1,000 – roughly the same number of degrees it is outside. I’ve already completely sweated through every article of clothing I own. We make our approach to the starting line. Despite the heat, the crowd is totally into it already. Something I’ll need as I’ll be running sans iPod for the first time. Here goes nothing (switching to mile markers – it’s easier that way).
Mile 1 – Straight downhill. If the rest of the course is like this, we’ll break our goal time of 4:00:00 no problem. See a guy dressed as Michael Jackson, complete with Jerry Curl wig and Beat It suit. Good luck dude.
Mile 2 – Lose my shirt and stuff it down the back of my pants. Time to bro it out.
Mile 3 – Since when are there farms in Massachusetts this close to Boston? I feel like I’m running through Harrisonburg, VA. People are DEFINITELY taking advantage of the city holiday. Lots of people are many beers deep. Good for you guys.
Mile 4 – Here come the hoses. Despite the recent drought in the Northeast, everyone is outside their house spraying down runners with hoses. At this point, I couldn’t care less that my cell phone is in my pocket. Benbo and I take advantage of every single hose. Well done Bostonians. Heroes #2
Miles 5-7 – Still on pace for 4 hours. I think I blacked out the majority of this part of the course.
Mile 8 – Start to enter some of the more charming small towns. I see a future here going antiquing on the weekends. Hopefully, I die in this race to prevent that bleak outlook from becoming a reality in 30 years.
Miles 9-10 – Pace is falling off a bit. 4 hours doesn’t seem entirely likely today. No PR will be set. Let’s just focus on finishing this thing.
Mile 11 – Pass a house of college kids going crazy for all the runners. Everyone is beer-spearing. Heroes #3.
Mile 12 – Mile 12 is commonly known as “The Screech Tunnel” in the Boston Marathon. It’s a stretch right outside of an all-girls college called Wellesley. Of all things on Marathon Monday, I was least prepared for this. Basically, all the girls from the college pour onto the streets, offering kisses to the runners based on race, age, sexual orientation, pace, sweatiness, and pretty much every other determining factor one can think of. I saw a LOT of gross old men getting smooches which led me to wonder whether they actually intended on running 26.2 miles or planned to bow out after Wellesley because they hit their excitement quota for the day. It was impossible to avoid these girls – I felt like Chris O’Donnell. Did he just make a Bachelor reference? Yeah, I did. Keep going.
Mile 13 – The halfway point. Always the best mile marker to pass. At this point, Benbo and I are double-fisting at the water stations. One cup to chug – one to pour over our heads.
We’re I’m slowly losing energy.
Miles 14-15 – Initially, I had written Rudy on my shirt to get some verbal support from the crowd. Since I ditched that eons ago, my self-conscious ego was bruised when everyone would cheer on Benbo (name on shirt still intact). Luckily, we were a few feet behind another guy named “Rudy” so I just pretended that they were cheering for me.
Mile 16 – People are handing out free beer. Don’t tempt me with your wicked poisons.
Mile 17 – Adopting a run/lightly jog/walk approach. Benbo slows down to keep me going with a fist pound every few hundred feet. Finishing this thing is going to be interesting.
Mile 18 – Powered our way up Heartbreak Hill. Before I can tell Benbo “I’m glad that’s over with”, he says “Done with the first hill!”. Apparently there are multiple hills and that wasn’t actually Heartbreak. So I’m going to name that one “Soul Crushing Hill”.
Mile 19 – Finish “Hill #2” or as I like to call it, “Vomit Inducing Hill”.
Mile 20 – See Benbo’s parents. Their family friend tells me I don’t look good. I think that’s an understatement.
Mile 21 – Heartbreak Hill. In all honesty, I kinda blacked out this part. I did get a blue raspberry Flavor Ice though. See an ice cream truck on the side of the road. Debate hijacking it.
Mile 22 – It’s all downhill from here. Metaphorically and in actuality. Get the slightest semblance of a second wind only to realize it’s really gravity pulling me down the hill.
Mile 23 – Pass by Boston College. Everyone is, at minimum, 37 beers deep. Benbo’s rocking an All-American look and everyone is going nuts shouting “America, Fuck Yeah!” I feel like killing some Nazis right about now.
Mile 24 – Didn’t tell Benbo but honestly thought about quitting. With full knowledge that this blog was going to be a source of shitting on everyone in our group of friends on a daily basis, I couldn’t live in a world where Garrett knew I dropped out of a race with an “injured vagina”.
Mile 25 – Benbo and I part ways. He takes off running. I take off slow trotting. Get passed by an 85 year-old man. Yeah, that just happened. On the bright side – there’s Fenway Park!
Mile 26 – Turn into the gauntlet that is Boylston Street. Meet another guy who had been walking ahead of me. We decide to jog to the finish line together. Hero #4 on the day. You’re my boy, whoever you are. In the book 50/50, an amazing story of Dean Karnazes’ trip across the country running a marathon in each of the 50 states over 50 days, he talks about getting to the finish line when you’re depleted. That you should pretend the finishing line is a fisher who’s just caught you and you’re being reeled in. No truer words have ever been spoken. Adopting this methodology powers me through the last few hundred feet. Best part of the race? Finding out that the actual finish line was about 100 feet ahead of the media podium that seemed to be the end goal at first. .00000001% of energy saved. Score.
FINISH TIME: 4:48:28 (career worst)
All in all, it was worth the heat to put marathon #7 in the books. Still wasn’t able to break the 4 hour mark, so I’ll have to put up with a barrage of comments about my shortcomings from PO for the forseeable future. A big shout out to Benbo, Ash, and their families for all the support before, during, and after the race. Getting a ride home from the finish line may have actually saved my life.
Synopsis: If you’re looking for a medal, bib, official time, and your name in the paper, then bandit running isn’t for you. But if you don’t care about the superficialities that come with officially running a race, bandit running is definitely the way to go. We had absolutely zero problems getting to the starting line, running, getting water/food along the way, and finishing. I did get a few snide looks from marathon officials at the very end, but hey, fuck ’em.
On a scale from “in dah pissah” to “wicked awesome”, I’d rate the race at a 7.5.